Frank Lloyd Wright and Ralph Waldo Emerson: Truth Against the World

Primary author: Ayad Rahmani

Primary college/unit:
Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture
Campus: Pullman


Ask Frank Lloyd Wright scholars about the role that Ralph Waldo Emerson played in the intellectual development of the iconic architect and all will recognize it. But very few will know what to do it. Some might even go so far as to question the merit of pairing the two in one study, arguing that beside a passing mention of the sage by the architect the two moved in two different circles, the first literary, the second architectural. And yet this proposal insists otherwise, namely that it would be difficult to fully grasp Wright’s architectural range and ideas without also studying him through the lens of Emerson. He may not have devoted an essay long explanation to the sage but he did reference him when talking about issues as related to nature, self-reliance and the poetic. The two shared a concern for the direction America was taking, now well into the 19th century, largely divided along economic and political lines. What America they thought they had signed up for was no longer the one that they were currently experiencing. America was drifting father and father from its original project and something had to happen to steer the ship back on course. Nothing short of changing the American mind was at stake, Emerson advocating for it through words, Wright through architecture. How the former informed the making of the latter is the aim of this proposal, covering the span of a book-length project of six chapters and one introduction.